HM Revenue & Customs inspectors are to gain new powers to investigate and fine taxpayers, but safeguards for individuals and businesses will not come into effect until at least four months later.
Accountancy and tax bodies said the "get tough" regime should be delayed until a charter is in place to protect taxpayers. They also argued the charter should be a statute, similar to a bill of rights, rather than the currently proposed statement of good practice.
HMRC will acquire powers next year to enter business premises and private homes used for business. For errors that are "careless, but non-deliberate", penalties worth up to 30% of an unpaid tax bill can be levied. Fines worth 70% of the final tax bill could be imposed should officials believe the taxpayer deliberately ignored the need to make a payment. Deliberate concealment could trigger fines worth 100% of the final tax bill. The new powers, outlined in the Finance Act, are due to come into effect on April 1 2009.